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Another Besetting Sin of Bloggers

July 17, 2006

I’m continuing to read Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed and when I came to this passage, I immediately thought of the blogosphere.

From Colossians 3:15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace,” Sibbes concludes, “Therefore open show of difference is only good when it is necessary, although some, from a desire to be somebody, turn into by-ways and yield to a spirit of contradiction in themselves.”

A spirit of contradiction.  What an interesting phrase.  I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts about this.  Do you think there are some general social courtesies to be derived from this principle of avoiding unnecessary open shows of difference?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2006 11:32 am

    A clarification. By “difference” Sibbes means disagreement, not diversity.

  2. July 17, 2006 11:38 am

    I think it depends on the individuals involved and the motivation for voicing differences.

    I tend to feel a need to correct any inaccuracies I encounter though I’ve mellowed a bit). I can often correct, say, Gorfchild without causing division because we each appreciate the increased data accuracy. However, if my correction is in a spirit of one-upmanship, I need to repent. And I should try to read the situation. Under some situations, even well motivated correction will not be appreciated.

    I’ve also learned that some situations have the other bias. It is generally not profitable to correct my wife, as she does not enjoy the pedantic banter and takes my “useful bit of data” personally. In this situation (and other like it) it seems best to make certain that the correction really is necessary.

    I’ve focused on “correction” not because that’s the exclusive type of difference to be shown, but because it’s the one that seems to most naturally spring from my lips.

    I think I generally agree with Sibbes, but I think we need a good definition of “necessary”. This type of speech would seem to fall into the same category as profanity. It’s speech we are free to use, but are foolish to use without restraint.

  3. July 17, 2006 2:01 pm

    When you say you thought of the blogosphere, do you mean the general internet blogosphere or specifically the group of people in your blogroll, or something else?

  4. July 17, 2006 2:56 pm

    I’ve abhored the contrarian for quite some time now. I agree that there is a spirit of contradiction that resides in us as yet another convolution of pride. This is the same root that says, “Nuh-uh!” as a child does when told something he disagrees with or like we see in the “I’m going to tell you how it is” new-born collegiate banter we all know so well.

    Mostly it is rooted in knowledge puffing us up and youth. The social implication is seen I think in not being one who simply stirs the pot. No matter how ‘right’ one may be nobody likes a contrarian for you will always be construed as an arrogant blip. We should pick our corrections wisely and should seek to enjoy the fellowship of others more than the correction of syntax, grammar, data, and fact.

    Where I see the necessary correction would be in matters of religion that affect the perspicuity of the gospel. For those matters we should never be silent and yet even then, we need to be gracious, kind, tender-hearted and seasoned with love.

  5. July 17, 2006 3:28 pm

    Mobile Oak,

    No, I don’t mean to put any of the fine fellows in my blogroll in my crosshairs with this post. I am mainly thinking of some of the commenters I see on some of the most frequented Calvinist blogs. The blog moderators aren’t to blame, so I won’t single out any blogs as an example.

    But, of course, we all struggle with it, I probably more than most of you. One of the reasons this blog is a closed community is that knowing one another puts a rein on our rhetoric.

  6. July 17, 2006 3:31 pm

    I don’t know- I think it’s good that people know that Christians have differences of opinion (not that it’s not obvious from the multiplication of denominations).

    I certainly wouldn’t be interested in a religion where everyone was a drone and applied the same principles identically. I don’t know that it’s good to rag on other Christians, but I do think sometimes it’s good to distinguish oneself from Christians with which those you’re talking to have had negative experiences. Not that I advocate openly insulting other Christians, but certainly there is goodness in the diversity of beliefs.

  7. egana permalink
    July 18, 2006 10:04 am

    Funny, I am almost always trying to avoid having to differ with those I am with( with with with… lots of withs there. How about “differ with those with whom I am with?” heh heh heh…)

    Anyway, I digress into anti-grammar sentiments…

    I find it very difficult emotionally to be in disagreement with the people with whom I am talking, hanging out with, etc. It is like a giant weight on my mind that I can’t escape. I find that I only openly disagree if the pressure of my disagreement becomes too uncomfortable to bear, and then it outweighs the discomfort of verbally disagreeing. (Is this making ANY sense? I don’t think so… hmmm….)

    Anyway, I find these topics are painful for me to disagree with others about: parenting, home education, marriage and family relationships, and Calvinism.

    So, I think that I can often *look* peace-minded during these conversations, when really I am actually avoiding the emotional discomfort that I often experience during these conversations. So my motivation for not speaking, or for speaking on these topics is often self-centered, not God, love for the Body, peace-centered.

    One of your recent sermons has challenged me about running away (verbally, as well as physically… sometimes I will even excuse myself from the conversation all together and go to another room.. a BIG deal for an Extrovert *wink*) from these topics, but attempting to communicate my disagreement in a loving, build up the Body, honor the Lord sort of way….


    Sort of off topic, but still slightly relevant…

  8. July 18, 2006 11:49 am


    Good point. In deciding whether to voice our disagreement or not, we need to think about what will edify the other person and preserve the unity of the body of Christ, not just what will preserve our own personal comfort.


    In my first comment I was trying to distinguish difference from diversity so that it would be clear that we shouldn’t give the impression that we are all in lockstep about every little thing. I think Sibbes point is not about how we present ourselves to the world, but how we interact with one another. Are we listening to one another and seeking to learn from one another in humility, or do we just love a good argument and the opportunity for, as Gorfchild says, rhetorical exhibitionism?


    I find it also interesting that the two pastors in this conversation seem to feel most strongly the irritation of dealing with a spirit of contradiction. I find that often when I am trying to instruct someone about point A, they will reply, “Yes but…point B”. Now point B may be a perfectly valid point. But why are they bringing it up? I fear (I won’t judge) but I fear that often people may bring up point B just because they don’t want to hear point A. Or just because they want to say “don’t try to teach me anything, let me make sure you know all the things I already know”

    Of course they may be saying “But, point B” just because they are seeking greater understanding and clarification. That’s certainly the way I would hear it in my conversations with you all. Don’t take any of this personally, I’m just trying to meditate on what a spirit of contradiction might look like. As Eddie said, it is a mark of immaturity.

  9. egana permalink
    July 19, 2006 10:43 am

    when I am angry, or afriad, or wanting to self-justify, point B is a safer place to be than humbly listening to point A. If I can entrench behind point B (or C or D or E… however many I get through before the Spirit resuces me from protecting my slef and guarding my sin) then I don’t have to admit that I am wrong: not just in a conversation, but in my core being. There is something WRONG with me when I desire my sin over God’s wisdom and blessing you are delivering in point A.

    So maybe this “spirit of contradiction” might be an outpouring of fear and pride-based self protection.

    Currently, I am stuck bewteen humbling myself to suffer the mistreatment my poor foolish children give to me, and my God-given directive to instruct them NOT to mistreat me, but to respect, obey, and honor me. How can I do both?

    This does relate, trust me, because when I ask others for parenting help (see previous posts here in Isaiah543’s blog) I end up wanting to argue with every answer. Yesterday the Lord took me to task, that I was pridefully defending myself instead of humbly admitting that I am WRONG very often, and that when I am self-defending I am not teachable in this area, but very right in my own eyes, a bastien of true discernment, etc…..

    But thanks be to God, He is stronger than any spirit of contradiction or prideful attitude that may attempt to dominate my mind and heart. So, here I am, humbling myself, and being blessed as a result. What a God. He doesn’t leave us in the muck of natural consequences one minute more that He needs to to accomplish His purposes in us.

    Isaiah543 says: “I find it also interesting that the two pastors in this conversation seem to feel most strongly the irritation of dealing with a spirit of contradiction.”

    Upon reflection, this is not so surprising, becasue your interactions with others are more “teachy” than the rest of us. The only people I try to teach are my own children, and they are master of going to point B, C, D, E, etc… But I don’t try to teach Fruittart, or Snady, or Mobileoak, or Mre. Potter, or the rest.

    In fact, when I do attempt to be more “teachy” say with Christain Education stuff, I get really nervous adn uncomfortable, because I don’t feel as though I have any right to be heard. I mean, who am I to tell other parents what and how and why about their own kids, right? Yikes…

    So of course you get more of the arguments, the contradictions, because you are doing more of the instruction, confrontation, etc.

    Also, I think an immature person would like to score points over the “know-it-all-pastor” to fuel their self-aggrandisement and their willful refusal to be subordinate to anyone at all. Look at the teens, so many of them are stuck in this cycle. Foolishness and self-delusion is the wide road, and easy to find, even though it takes enormous effort to fight against the knowledge of God made manifest in creation and our own hearts…

    wisdom and humility is a little path that’s hard to find, but is a delightfully refreshing way to walk because the Spirit blesses us while we are there…

  10. July 20, 2006 10:43 am

    I saw this comic today (20 July) and laughed out loud . . . thought I’d share it since you’ve been talking about immaturity reflected in contrarian attitudes.

  11. egana permalink
    July 20, 2006 1:04 pm


    I like it!

    can I be a doodle head too?

    please please please please please please please please puhhhhleeeeeeeeeze?

  12. July 20, 2006 2:08 pm

    Umm, it’s ‘doodie’, not ‘doodle’ . . . and while doodle-head is just one of those lesser variations like ‘heck’, you might not like to be a ‘doodie-head’. ;-)

  13. July 20, 2006 3:53 pm

    Doodly doodie doo (sung to tune of “Strangers in the night”) doo doo doo doo doo, doodly doodie dooooo

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